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Be responsible: doctor warns public on antibiotic use

As part of a series of events at Poole Hospital, consultant microbiologist Dr Liz Sheridan is helping to raise awareness of the importance of using antibiotics appropriately during World Antibiotics Awareness Week from 13-17 November.

Inappropriate use of the drugs is leading to an increase in bacteria resistant to them. Antibiotics are a vital part of healthcare, and make possible advances in medicine, including organ transplantation and chemotherapy.

Without effective antibiotics, even minor surgery and routine operations could become high risk procedures if serious infections can’t be treated. World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2017

“Antibiotics are lifesaving and that’s what they should be used for – the serious, life-threatening conditions like sepsis which aren’t going to get better on their own,” said Liz.

In the UK, around 40 per cent of the 40,000 cases of E.coli, the commonest cause of bloodstream infections in this country, seen each year are resistant to first-line antibiotics. Meanwhile the Sepsis Trust charity estimates that 44,000 people die in the UK each year from sepsis – with antibiotics forming one of the key ways the condition is treated.

“They are an incredibly useful treatment and have made possible life-saving techniques in modern medicine which we now take for granted, as well as improving the safety of a wide range of more routine healthcare,” continued Liz.

“But we are starting to see more and more resistant strains of bacteria.

“This could threaten our ability to use cancer treatments which knock out the immune system temporarily and which are reliant on antibiotics to protect the patient, for example.

“In future, antibiotics might no longer be effective to fight complications around surgery and intensive care treatment.

“A major driver of antibiotic resistance is their use in farming, where they have made intensive animal rearing possible. Governments around the world are starting to wake up to this and introduce controls on agricultural use.

“You can help too though. My advice is only to take antibiotics if they are prescribed to you personally by a medical professional – that way you keep everybody safer.

“Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them for minor ailments means they are less likely to work for you in the future.”

To mark the week, younger patients have drawn posters to highlight the issue, some of which have been turned into screensavers for hospital computers and stickers for visitors.

Liz will also be promoting appropriate antibiotic use to patients and visitors too with an awareness stand in the hospital’s dome entrance area. World Antibiotics Awareness Week 2017

Dr Liz Sheridan holds a petri dish showing the effects of five different types of antibiotic on bacteria. The technique is used to find the most appropriate antibiotic for a patient

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB. Tel: 01202 665511

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